October 23, 2014

Elyria
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Facing cancer: Chris Mumford, 61, Lorain

Her diagnosis: Mumford was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2005 after an irregular mammogram. “I had a sonogram within a week to 10 days, and it showed a solid mass. In February, I had a biopsy, and (the doctor) confirmed that I had cancer,” she said.

Her cancer was caught early and is considered Stage 1.

“Because I was also severely anemic at the time, we had to delay my lumpectomy until March.”

Her first reaction: “I felt like my life was spinning out of control when I was diagnosed, because you don’t have any control,” Mumford said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen with any kind of cancer,and it’s the not knowing that’s very scary.”

Escaping chemo: In May, Mumford met with an oncologist who tested her to see if she would be a good candidate for chemotherapy treatments. “It was confirmed that I didn’t need chemo, which I was glad to escape. It showed I was at low risk for recurrence and that radiation would be enough.” So in June 2005, when school was out, Mumford — who taught special education classes at Lorain’s Admiral King High School for 25 years before retiring in 2006 — underwent six-and-a-half weeks of radiation at Ireland Cancer Center.

“I was very lucky that I had minimal side effects,” she said. “I have been lucky the whole time.”

Sharing the news: Mumford said it was very difficult to tell the people closest to her about her diagnosis. “It was hard for me to tell my family because my father had died from prostate cancer. It was hard for me to tell my best friend because her other best friend had died from cancer. It was very hard for me to tell my sons because you don’t think about your parents being mortal.”

Her advice to other women facing a diagnosis: “Find out what support is available because I think if I had used it during my treatment, maybe I wouldn’t have been as frightened,” she said, adding that many free services and programs are open to cancer patients as well as caregivers and family members. “You don’t have to take the journey alone.”

On volunteering at the cancer center: Mumford has been volunteering at Community Cancer Center for three years.

“When I tell people that I volunteer at the cancer center, they make such strange faces and ask, ‘Why would you want to volunteer at such a negative place?’ And I tell them, ‘You don’t understand — it’s a positive place; it’s a place of hope. That’s how I see the cancer center.’”

Her outlook now: “This whole journey has changed me totally. I don’t take life for granted. I find the joy in the small things every day. It changed my priorities totally and brought me much closer to my family, and I discovered some inner strength I didn’t know I had,” she said. “I felt like I was being held in the palm of God’s hand for a while there, and he said, ‘Let go.’ ”

Celebration on the horizon: Mumford is gearing up for a very special milestone in March — five years of being cancer free.

“That five-year mark is an important one. I’m hoping that I won’t be so nervous when I go for a mammogram again,” she said. “Every time I have to go for a followup, it’s like, ‘Please, let it be clear,’ because I know it’s common to have a recurrence. My chance of a recurrence is low based on the research, but you still worry. When you hit that (year) number five, you get a little breather — a sign of relief.”

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Contact Chrissy Kadleck at 329-7155 or ckadleck@chroniclet.com.